Facing a new EU-Turkey migration deal and border restrictions along the so-called Balkan route, human traffickers are planning to smuggle migrants to Europe by crossing the Mediterranean to Italy, according to a German newspaper report.
According to research from the Sunday edition of Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, traffickers will use fishing ships and small cargo vessels to smuggle migrants along the new route beginning in the first week of April.
Departure points for the new route include Turkey's beachside resort of Antalya, the city of Mersin near the Syrian border and the Greek capital Athens.
After paying a fee of between 3,000 and 5,000 euros (3,400-5,600 dollars), migrants will be instructed to stay below deck until the ship reaches international waters, according to smugglers who provided their mobile numbers on Facebook.
The new route is decidedly more expensive than the journey from Turkey to the Greek islands, but under the new migration deal between Brussels and Ankara, migrants who illegally arrive on Greek shores can expect to be returned to Turkey unless they can prove that they face persecution there.
Demand for new routes to Europe has increased for weeks, according to the report.